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may begin; but it is not to be commenced with books, nor by the alphabet. Before knowledge can be beneficially acquired, its value must be felt, and a desire of attainment must be inspired and manifested. This is not a difficult task, but it can only be fulfilled by those who have studied the capabilities and the powers of the intellect which is to be cultivated.
The forms of expression employed by children are those which they best comprehend, and in these, as we have before observed, they must be addressed. Great truths may be illustrated by small words. A fact is not the less valuable or interesting because it is clothed in simple language; on the contrary, it can only be really valued when it is understood. Before children have attained their fourth year, some peculiar mental organization is developed, requiring direction, restraint, or encouragement. Upon a false or correct estimate of this organization will depend the moral and intellectual welfare of the individual. In some characters, imagination is predominant; in others, quick perception; and in a few, for this perhaps is the rarest, the reasoning powers are most active.
Great imagination frequently exists with no power of language; and children are distinguished by this mingled excellence and defect equally with adults. Because they cannot express their thoughts intelligibly, they are judged to have no ideas at all, or condemned as stupid. A patient investigation will discover the injustice of the sentence; and in such cases the child's deficiencies should be remedied, care taken to increase his stock of word and to habituate him to a clear and correct expression of his ideas. The same excess of imagination gives rise to that dreaming state which assumes the ap
pearance of laziness, (and the effects are equally injurious ;) the imagination is indeed busy, but it is active to no end; the other faculties are lying dormant, and their want of exercise will finally become incapacity. These imaginative minds often affix their own definitions to words, inducing such erroneous conceptions, and such distortions of facts, that a child has not unfrequently been deemed idiotic; whereas, upon a minute examination of the various trains of thought, the misconceptions have evidently arisen from a vivid imagination acting upon misinterpreted expressions occasioned by the similarity of sounds, or by some association. For instance, a conversation has passed in the presence of a child, in which anecdotes or events are related, parts of which only are intelligible to him; to these parts he affixes his own meaning ; this affords ample food for an active imagination, and when at some future time a term or name previously heard is used, the child associates with it the former facts, the original train of ideas return, and he appears to be talking of something totally irrelevant, when, in fact, the connexion is intimate, and the deduction fair, according to the premises he had made for himself. Such minds delight in improbabilities and tales of wonder: the marvellous to them is more attractive than truth; and if they be not checked, the judgment is sacrificed, and the reasoning powers almost destroyed. Nothing tends to the fostering of this quality of the mind more than ordinary prints. An excess of imagination is either the cause or effect (most probably the former) of mental indolence; and where it prevails, the child will prefer gazing on a print, to informing itself of the reality of the subject, which the print illustrates. In an inquiring mind, an engraving will create a desire to know more; and when the facts
are acquired, the defects or improbabilities of the illustration will be detected. An imaginative mind takes all upon trust: it does not wish to inquire, it believes. Good engravings, by which term we mean correct representations, judiciously employed, are of great assistance in education; but children's books often contain illustrations which absolutely contradict the impression that the words convey, and create incorrect ideas and associations which it is impossible wholly to eradicate.
In contradistinction to this superabundance of imagination, there are minds which cannot be urged beyond mere matter of fact. With them, words are limited not so much to one meaning, as to one application; yet they are not deficient in curiosity, and probably delight in inquiry, but the fact once acquired lies sterile: it produces no results further than that it is so; the modifications of circumstances are neither foreseen nor understood. These two distinct manifestations are often greatly misinterpreted: the one is considered a fool, the other very clever--neither opinion being correct.
In order to analyze the nature of youthful intellect, the child must be observed during its sports, and when uninfluenced by restraint. The preceptor must condescend to become its playfellow. It by no means follows that, in so doing, he loses his influence, for companions generally have greater power than instructors : hence the importance of discretion in the choice of companions; and the conclusion is obvious, that children should remain in that sacred asylum “home," until they can distinguish between good and evil, and have moral and intellectual strength to cling to the one and resist the other. The vulgar, ignorant, obstinate, passionate, or vicious playfellow of an hour will implant more evil than days, nay years of care can
root out. But when a child has learned that such things are wrong, he will fear and dislike the evil-doer, and avoid him as he would fly from any vicious animal.
The child having learned to distinguish between good and evil, and acquired habits of obedience, self-control, a love of truth, an affectionate confidence in its preceptor, with some idea of the utility of knowledge, and of its power to confer amusement (and in childhood amusement is happiness), the imaginary difficulty of learning to read will be half overcome, before the task appears to have commenced. And let it be observed that, as learning ought to be made pleasurable, so let it never be held forth as the awful affair it has been so long considered. It is only the ignorance or pedantry of the teacher which invests it with an austerity both false and hateful.
From the above remarks the following conclusions may be fairly drawn :
First, that the formation of good habits is practicable at a very early age.
Second, that a system of regular control may be established and acted upon before the reasoning faculties and powers of speech are much developed.
Third, that with the development of reason and language increased means are afforded.
Fourth, that success in life and character depend more upon
the child. Fifth, that the tools (so to speak) which must be employed, are firmness, gentleness, consistency, patience, and maternal tenderness.
Sixth, that the materials to be acted upon are health, temperament, affection, and reason. From these deductions, it is clear that the mother is, to a great extent, responsible for the moral well-being of her child ; that she has a duty to fulfil, demanding the practice of all the virtues which she wishes to inculcate, and requiring an informed and unprejudiced mind, with a clear and unwarped judgment. The personal attention required of her will not, if her time be well regulated, interfere with other duties.
We have advanced nothing that is not practicalnothing that is not in the power of every mother. We cannot even allow that there is much difficulty in what we propose: the greatest lies in the self-knowledge and self-command required by the parent. We have heard many mothers assert that they send their young children to a preparatory school because they have not time to attend to them at home. Have they found time to inquire into the system of that school, and the character of the companions whom their children will meet there? Do they find time to examine either the moral or intellectual attainments of their children? — to ascertain whether they have acquired virtuous habits ?-or are they merely satisfied with knowing that Miss or Master is learning spelling, reading, geography, grammar, writing, and arithmetic. If mothers cannot find time personally to superintend the elementary education of their children, neither will they find time to ascertain how that education proceeds.
But they may eventually find time to lament over the influence of bad example, the ignorance of virtue, and the acquaintance with evil, in which their children have grown up ;-they will have to mourn the loss of affection, confidence, friendship, and parental influence ; and in addition to this, they may some time discover that their children have grown up entirely deficient in all useful or solid acquirements.